The reigning provincial women's curling champs kick off their defence at the 2023 Viterra Scotties women's provincial tournament in Estevan, Sask., Thursday morning, with the Moose Jaw rink looking to keep their title for another year.
"[We're] really proud to be able to represent Saskatchewan and really just can't wait for that opportunity to do it again," says Penny Barker, who skips the rink that also includes third Christie Gamble, second Jenna Enge and lead Danielle Sicinski.
The team has won all three Saskatchewan circuit bonspiels they've entered so far this season, but Barker says that won't mean much this weekend.
"Anybody can beat anybody," she said. "This province is so strong in curling, so we know that we have to bring our best and we hope that's good enough to win."
The winner of the provincial tournament, which began Wednesday night and wraps up Sunday, earns the right to represent Saskatchewan at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, running Feb. 17-26 in Kamloops, B.C.
Barker's team also won the Saskatchewan provincial finals in 2017. Gamble said being together for a number of years is paying dividends.
"I think one of the things that really sets us apart as a team is our communication and our supportiveness," Gamble said. "As individuals, we're all very strong, but as a team, we're fantastic.
"When we miss, when we make mistakes, we know how to learn from them, we know how to communicate, how to become better, and we get better every single game as a result."
Barker said that continuity helps, giving the rink plenty of experience playing in meaningful games.
"We bring that sense of calm to each other and I hope that is what we put out on the ice as well," the skip said.
"There's a lot of really strong teams and it's just trying to be calm, trying to stay positive and have each other's backs."
The 12-team field at this week's provincial tournament is full of former Saskatchewan champions, including North Battleford's Robyn Silvernagle, Saskatoon Nutana's Sherry Anderson, and 2011 national champion Amber Holland and her rink from Kronau.
Barker said winning last year was a little different, since the pandemic meant they didn't play in the usual crowded arenas.
"So you didn't have that experience in the same way that in the past you would have, with a whole bunch of people in the stadium watching," Barker said.
"I just can't wait to get back on the ice in Estevan and play as hard as we can, and make our way to B.C for the Scotties."
Gamble said the team will try to focus on themselves and what they have to do to be successful.
"If we play the way that we have played all year and continue to support each other, we're very confident we should come out on top," Gamble said.
"There are a lot of great teams in this province. Anyone could win it, but we know that we've done it before and we can do it again."